NEWARK, N.J. – After months of negotiations and a unanimous vote to strike earlier this week, 7,000 32BJ office cleaners that work in 500 buildings have reached a tentative contract agreement with their employers.
The new four-year contract is subject to ratification by members and includes up to $3.80 in wage increases that will have some workers in the state starting at $18 by 2023. Workers will keep their quality family health insurance without premium sharing and continue to enjoy legal and training benefits. The new contract improves retirement benefits for many workers, expands paid sick leave, creates notable protections against sexual harassment and creates a statewide labor management committee to discuss the physically demanding conditions of working as a janitor.
For the first time, the contract includes comprehensive protections against sexual harassment: It requires that employers provide and post a sexual harassment policy in the workplace, protects workers against harassment by third parties, and lays out a process for follow up and discipline.
“As someone who lives check to check, I’m relieved that we settled this contract, and just in time for the holidays with my kids,” said Ederle Vaughan, a cleaner at Newark’s Prudential Center and member of the 32BJ SEIU Bargaining Committee. “I can keep on receiving affordable health benefits, which is critical to my family and me. Cleaners work hard to keep buildings up and running. I’ve been a member for over 12 years and this contract has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
The contract will cover 500 buildings across New Jersey and averts a strike that would have affected some of the state’s most important transit centers and landmarks. The tentative agreement is scheduled to be ratified by 32BJ membership within the week.
“Our bargaining committee members are quite happy with the new agreement, and to have better wages that will allow their families to keep up with the rising cost of living in New Jersey,” 32BJ SEIU Vice President and New Jersey State Director Kevin Brown said. “This agreement is a win for working people, building tenants and businesses across the state. Workers can now continue to provide excellent service while also being able to fully provide for their families and uplift their communities with good, middle class jobs.”
Dozens of elected officials supported 32BJ cleaners throughout their contract campaign. From attending the opening of bargaining to marching and rallying with them, the support has been overwhelming.
“Today is a great day for New Jersey and the 7,000 commercial cleaners at SEIU 32BJ who just settled a new four-year contract,” said New Jersey Governor Murphy. “This contract is much bigger than the office cleaners who will make the wages and benefits it ensures. This is about the strength of New Jersey’s economy. Today, 32BJ ensured that communities across our state will have what they need, not only to survive, but to thrive.”
“Great news from 32BJ. NJ cleaners just reached a new contract that will build stability & strength in communities across the state! I’m so proud to have supported their campaign. We succeed when everyworker— Black, brown & white— is paid enough to care for his or her family,” wrote Senator Joe Cryan in a tweet.
“I’m so proud to have stood along side them in this fight and I’m proud that New Jersey will continue to be a state where our commercial industry provides dignity, fair wages and benefits to the workers who keep our buildings clean and running daily,” said Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro.
“I am thrilled to see that custodial workers throughout our state have settled on a strong, fair contract that offers needed raises and essential healthcare protections. The ability to strike and collectively bargain is the bedrock of the American labor movement, and I would like to praise the hardworking men and women of SEIU and the participating contractors for strengthening that process with this agreement,” said the Mayor of Parsippany Michael Soriano.
With 175,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 13,000 in New Jersey, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.